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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

THE ART OF PAINTING                      241

for Chinese painting, while poetry provides the spirit, the emphasis on
tone and atmosphere, and the pantheistic delight in all the smells and
^Slours and sounds of nature.

I Before Su Tungpo was born, China was already rich in artistic tradi-
teon, both in calligraphy and painting. Su Tungpo had from his youth
|been a strong admirer of Wu Taotse, and all through his years at
Huangchow he had spent his time improving himself as a painter.
Now all his poet and painter friends were gathered at the capital, and
the atmosphere was stimulating to his poetic and artistic creativity. As
life is transformed when one good chess player finds another good chess
player in the same city, so Su Tungpo's life was now changed. After
all, he was a scholar and not a politician, and as a scholar his primary
occupation was with ink, brush, and paper. His disciples, great scholars
themselves, were continually calling at his house. Mi Fei, who later
became the most outstanding painter of the Sung dynasty, once was so
'enamoured with the massive rhythms of the silent rocks that he pros-
trated himself before a mountain cliff and called it his "father-in-law".
He styled himself, or was called by others: "Crazy tyii" Mi, Su, and
Li Kunglin, the three great Sung masters, were now constantly in each
other's company.

This group of scholars gathered together in one another's homes,
had wine dinners, joked, versified, and were more usually in the intoxi-
offed state than not. At such times Su or Mi or Li would approach
(the desk, with ink, brush, and paper spread before him. As one started
to paint, to write, or to versify, the others looked on and joined in,
adding poems for postscripts. The circumstances and atmosphere were
ideal. The most essential materials for the practise of poetry, painting,
or calligraphy are two liquids, ink and liquor; they had the best of
wine and the best of ink, besides the best of brushes and the most
expensive and rarest quality of paper. When aagood calligraphist or
painter found an especially rare paper, he was like a good violin pkyer
finding a Stradivarius before himó-he just could not resist it. Su
Tungpo's favourites were Chengshintang paper, Chuko brushes from
Shiiancheng, or brushes made from a mouse's whiskers, and ink made
by Li Tingkuei. After one scholar had completed a painting, it was
customary for the others to write in turn a few lines or a couple of,
poems in comment on the painting, or perhaps merely to record a joke
that had passed around at the time. Sometimes Su Tungpo and Li
Kunglin (better known to Western art collectors as Li Lungmien)
co-operated in working out a picture, Su painting the rocks and Li
painting the cypress trees, and Tseyu and Huang Tingchien making
verse comments on it

There was once a great occasion, celebrated in the history of Chinese
art, at which sixteen of these scholars were gathered together in the